How To Make Fake High Dynamic Range Photos In Photoshop

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high dynamic range photographyWe’ve all seen those stunning high dynamic range (HDR) photography on the Web before. For some photographers, the technique simply means touching up a photo to make it look better, but at the same time making it look like nothing was done to it at all. Others go in a different direction, creating a more unreal look and bringing about more of an artistic piece rather than something you’d see in real life.

Whatever the case may be, the results can be pretty impressive, but how is it done exactly? Do you need a fancy camera and special HDR software? Not necessarily.


If you have only one JPEG image, you can create a fake high dynamic range photography look with just a few quick steps in Photoshop. It’s an easy yet effective way to enhance your favorite photos.

What Is HDR?

High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography is simply about capturing a greater range of tonal detail. This usually entails taking at least three photos at different exposures of the same shot and merging them together. If you don’t have a camera that allows you to manually set the exposure, a tripod, or if the subject is moving, don’t worry; you’re not out of luck.

So, How To Make High Dynamic Range Photos

Here’s the photo we’ll be working on. It’s a single JPEG image straight out of a camera.

high dynamic range photography

First off, open up the image in Photoshop and duplicate the Background layer by dragging it to the Create a new layer icon at the bottom of the layers palette or by hitting Ctrl + J (Command + J on a Mac).

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how to make high dynamic range photos

With the layer copy selected, set the blending mode to Overlay.

high dynamic range photography

Now, go up to the menu bar and click on Image. Scroll down to Adjustments and hit Desaturate.

high dynamic range

After that, go to ImageAdjustments again, but this time click on Invert (Ctrl + I or Command + I on Mac).

On the menu bar, click on Filter, go to Blur, and choose Gaussian Blur. Select a radius of somewhere around 50 pixels or so. If you notice any halos starting to appear around objects, increase the radius accordingly.

Now, copy the Background layer once again. This time, set its blending mode to either Vivid Light or Linear Light. Start lowering the opacity of this layer to your liking. From my experience, you should end up at around 25%, more or less depending on the image you’re working with. It’s entirely up to you, though.

high dynamic range photos

That’s it. Here’s what we’ve come up with:

Bonus Tip

Here’s an additional tip you can try out. Here’s another photo that’s been through the same technique explained above:

high dynamic range photos

It looks pretty good, but let’s try to tweak the colors a little to make them pop. Make sure you have no layers selected and click on the Create new fill or adjustment layer icon.

Select Selective Color and start going through the colors and adjusting the sliders to your liking, focusing particularly on any dominant colors in your image.

Here’s the final result:

Do you have any experience creating HDR images? Has this high dynamic range photography technique worked for your photos? Let us know in the comments.

Image Credit: MorBCN

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.